Land Day protests attended by thousands in Israel, OPT

Several protestors injured while attempting to approach Gaza border

Published 30 March 2010. Updated and corrected 04 April 2010

Sunday, 4 April, 2010 - 18:23
London, UK
Adalah, Haaretz, Maan, Ynet

Several people were injured on Tuesday while participating in one of several marches toward the Gaza borders as a part of Land Day protests.

30 March is marked by Palestinian citizens of Israel to protest confiscation of Arab lands by the State of Israel and to commemorate the killing of six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were protesting on 30 March 1976.

According to minority rights group Adalah, although Arabs constitute about 20% of the Israeli population, approximately 93% of the land in Israel is owned by the state and the Jewish National Fund. Only 3-3.5% of the land in Israel is currently owned by the Arab population.

Land Day demonstrations are also held in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a mark of Palestinian solidarity.

This year the Jewish festival of Passover falls on 30 March and a general closure has been imposed on all of the occupied West Bank until the end of the festival. Nonetheless, Land Day activities including tree-planting were held in several villages there today.

Several marches were also held in the south and north of the Gaza Strip to mark Land Day. Marchers attempted to approach the Gaza buffer zone in protest against its encroachment on their lands, but were shot at by Israeli soldiers, leading to several injuries.

On 30 March Palestinian and Israeli sources reported that a 15-year-old boy had been killed in the area of the protests in unclear circumstances. However, Palestinian agency Ma’an later reported that the boy, who had gone missing that day, was eventually discovered to have been held by Egyptian security forces after trying to leave Gaza via the tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border. According to the boy’s relatives, they said, the boy returned safely home after a few days in detention. The information was confirmed with Egyptian security forces by Ma’an’s representative in Egypt.

Palestinian news agency Maan has reported that a Land Day commemoration ceremony, organized by the Palestinian National Initiative on 28 March in Gaza, was used by Palestinian leaders from different factions to call for Palestinian unity and against internal divisions.

An Egyptian-mediated proposal for internal Palestinian reconciliation is still under discussion by Palestinian factions. Hamas has demanded a number of amendments to the document.

Background to Land Day

In 1976 the Israel Lands Administration declared its intention of expropriating Arab lands in the Galilee in the North of Israel in order to expand the Jewish town of Carmi’el at the expense of Arab farmlands in the vicinity.

This expropriation came against a backdrop of land confiscations that began with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and continues to this day.

In the 1970s large tracts of land were confiscated in order to accelerate the development of Jewish towns in the north of Israel, as part of a government programme to ‘Judaize the Galilee’ and ensure a ‘demographic balance’ in those areas where there was an Arab majority.

Attempts by Arab leaders to meet with Israeli officials and curb the land confiscations failed.

The Arab communist party in Israel (Rakach) declared a general strike on 30 March 1976, in protest against the land grab and other forms of discrimination against Arabs in Israel.

Demonstrations were held in the villages of Sakhnin, Arrabeh and Deir Hanna. Although the demonstrators were unarmed, the Israeli police called in the Israeli army to suppress the protests. Six protestors were killed, four by the army and two by the police.

The demonstrations spread throughout the country and into the Occupied Palestinian Territory but later died down.

Since those events, Arab citizens of Israel have held protests every Land Day against land confiscations and racist policies. The central rally is held in the village of Sakhnin in the Galilee, and also includes a small number of Jewish protestors.

Today, about half of the residents of the Galilee are Arab and the other half are Jewish.

This article may be reproduced on condition that JNews is cited as its source.

This piece corrects and replaces a piece published 30 March 2010

See here for Adalah’s interactive map and database on land expropriation in Israel .

Further reading:
Israel’s new Land Reform Law, passed 3 August 2009, authorizes privatization of lands and will discriminate between Jews and non-Jews: Adalah paper…

Poster artist: Jamal Afghani

Photo by Shay Vaknin, Ynet

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